Saturday, September 24, 2016

Dance Dance Revolution

Film: Isadora
Format: Internet video on laptop

I’ve mentioned here before when I thought it was relevant that both of my daughters are dancers, and very serious dancers. My older daughter, at 18, is a year away from her college degree in dance performance, when what would have been her high school graduating class is fininshing its first year of college. My younger daughter spent this past summer at the Joffrey Ballet in Chicago, much to the detriment of my bank account. When I come to a movie like Isadora (sometimes called The Loves of Isadora), I have certain expectations and preconceptions. This is, after all, the story of the dancer Isadora Duncan.

I should come clean at the start here and admit that the version of this that I could find—no library in my state seems to have a copy to lend and NetFlix certainly doesn’t have it—had some problems. The primary problem is that the film seems to have been cut off a bit at the sides and a little at the top. Whenever I’m faced with a situation like this in which the copy of the film I am reviewing has particular deficiencies, I try not to let that affect my final opinion. It’s worth bringing up, because it would be easy to suggest that had I seen this in a different format, I may have liked it more.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Ice, Ice Lady

Films: 45 Years
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

One of the things I love about movies is that they can present us with a story that perhaps couldn’t be real and yet still presents a very human story. That’s certainly the case with 45 Years, where we get a story that is just on the edge of being believable, but uses that fantastic tale to present us with something that is very real and surprisingly affecting. The audience needs to come to this with a certain amount of willing suspension of disbelief. Once we’re willing to do that, the story can play out in front of us.

In 45 Years, we have a couple approaching their 45th anniversary. Kate (Charlotte Rampling) and Geoff Mercer (Tom Courtenay) didn’t really celebrate their 40th anniversary because Geoff was ill. Now, they are planning a party that will involve a great deal of their small town. While Kate continues to prepare for the celebration, Geoff gets a letter that changes everything. This is the suspension of disbelief part.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Off Script: Cherry Falls

Films: Cherry Falls
Format: Internet video on laptop.

You know the basic horror movie tropes. One of the basic tropes is that for all of their blood and guts, horror movies are incredibly conservative in terms of sexual politics. Anyone who has sex dies. Cherry Falls turns that basic trope on its head. In this film, the opposite is true. Our killer is targeting virgins. It’s a hell of a fun spin on one of the basic rules of slasher movies. In a sense, it’s a bit like Scream in that respect, although it lacks the overall cleverness of Craven’s franchise.

Aside from that change, though, Cherry Falls follows the basic horror movie story. A young couple gets killed, sending shockwaves through the small town of Cherry Falls, Virginia. Meanwhile, life in the high school seems to go on as normal. Jody Marken (Brittany Murphy), daughter of the local sheriff (Michael Biehn) breaks up with her boyfriend Kenny (Gabriel Mann) and mourns the loss of a couple of fellow students. Of course, the killings aren’t going to stop there. Another student is killed brutally, and the police let slip that all of the victims have had the word “virgin” carved into them.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Nick's Picks: Party Monster

Films: Party Monster
Format: DVD from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

This is the ninth in a series of twelve movies suggested by Nick Jobe.

When Nick gave me a list of 12 films this year, he had pretty much free rein, provided that the film in question was one I hadn’t seen before. Sometimes, Nick likes to throw me something weird and difficult to explain. In the past that has included films like Ink, The Battery, and yes, even The Room. He could have gone with surreal weird like Hausu (which I’ve seen, but this year) or gone to hurt me emotionally with something like Dead Girl or A Serbian Film. Instead, he graced me with Party Monster.

I understood immediately why Nick wanted me to watch this. In the first 10 minutes we get more fourth-wall breaks than I normally see in a month. Nick is a sucker for a broken fourth wall. In this case, those fourth wall breaks come from the people Party Monster is about: Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin) and James St. James (Seth Green).

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Police on My Back

Films: Alibi
Format: Internet video on The Nook.

I try to keep things loose as much as I can with what movies I watch. What I mean by that is that I try to be varied in terms of what nominations I’m looking at and what decade I select from. I don’t want to watch a string of films from the same couple of years one after the other in general. If I’m honest, though, I’m pretty lax on watching things from the earliest years of my Oscar categories. It’s been ages since I’ve seen something from the ‘20s. Part of the reason is that quality can be a real issue. Part of it is that of the movies that are missing, lost, or unavailable are pretty heavily concentrated in those first few years. Regardless, I came across Alibi online today, so I figured I may as well knock it out.

Where Alibi is kind of interesting in terms of early talkies is that we don’t really have a main character. Well, we kind of do; we have Chick Williams (Chester Morris), who has just been released from prison. Chick protests his innocence, even though he probably was guilty. Now that he’s out, he’s ready to get back into his crime life, and he’s more than ready to cover himself as much as he can. He’s got an in; he has the romantic interest of Daisy Thomas (Mae Busch), who happens to be the daughter of the local police chief.